Dr. Woods receives
Ford Foundation Fellowship

Former Bell Fellow (2013-2014) Dr. Natasha N. Woods, a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University at Newark, has been awarded a 2017 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship.Natasha N. Woods

Dr. Woods will spend her fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she will do research on how seed dispersal effects maritime forest recovery on coastal barrier islands. “Coastal plant communities are among the most vulnerable to climate change, and maritime forests are declining along the Atlantic Coast. The sustainability of these tree species is important because they maintain freshwater aquifers, buffer inland communities during storms, and provide novel habitat for wildlife,” stated Dr. Woods. “I plan to test the germination of seeds that have been dispersed via avian, oceanic drift and wind. My proposed project as a whole will provide ecological experiments on population dynamics of maritime forest trees, species interactions, and trophic relationships.”

Dr. Woods became interested in plants when she was a Laboratory Educator at Spelman College.  She had to learn about local plants and animals at the Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve so that she could teach her first year biology students about these communities during educational hikes in the park, which was a part of their biology curriculum. “I became interested in the survival of a plant at the Nature Preserve named Diamorpha smallii. It is a succulent plant that survives in the loose, nutrient poor soil of broken granite. It also experiences extremely hot and humid temperatures. I wanted to know how plants survived in hot environments with so few nutrients.”

Dr. Woods received her PhD from The Ohio State University in Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology in 2015 and is now a plant community ecologist. Research statistics show that only around 25% of workers in STEM fields are women. Dr. Woods has this advice for women who want to have scientific careers: “Finding a good mentor will be key to your growth and development as a scientist. A good mentor will see your potential and help you achieve your goals. Get good at showing and telling others what you are doing, and do not be afraid to seek out other researchers and ask them to mentor you.”

This year the Ford Foundation awarded approximately 24 postdoctoral fellowships that provide one year of support for individuals engaged in postdoctoral study after the attainment of a PhD or ScD. The awards are made to individuals who have demonstrated superior academic achievement, are committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level, show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well-prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.